We’re all in the gutter, but some belong there

LP Columnist Barry Freeman
LP Columnist Barry Freeman
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“Something I should have done myself. It puts individual people in touch with the party and is a great way of showing how Labour can reconnect with the people of Britain.”

Tony Blair there, in March 2014, wholeheartedly welcoming Ed Miliband’s ‘one member, one vote’ reform of Labour’s internal democracy. “I want to hear the voices of working people louder than ever before,” said Miliband, hailing “the biggest transfer of power in the history of our party”.

Needless to say, this was a very different Labour Party to that we now see strewn before us. The ruinous Scottish Independence Referendum was still six months away, the shambolic often cringe-inducing General Election campaign – Miliband should wear that ludicrous stone around his neck like the Ancient Mariner with his albatross – not even on the drawing board.

Here was an elite absurdly confident their brand of tepid Toryism had won the argument, and these changes were enacted as the final act of modernisation, chiefly intended to end the influence of the unions. That the new system would deliver them a conveyor belt of media-friendly Tony clones was not for one moment in doubt.

The changes played well in the country. Delivered a pleasing little bump in the polls, burnished Ed’s modernising credentials, etc.

What could possibly go wrong?

What indeed? Fifteen months of blithering incompetence later and the twice-rejected modernisers who annihilated the party north of Northumberland are gaping at a leadership contest spiralling rapidly out of their control. Swathes of the existing membership had simply turned their backs on them, young new members who – in late teens, early 20s – quite fairly saw them as ‘the past’ pouring in.

So what did they do, these self-styled ‘moderates’? Why, they embarked upon a squalid public smear campaign promoted mostly through implacable enemies of Labour such as The Sun, the Mail and the Telegraph.

Grim. Then, on Friday, the straw that broke this camel’s back, a Labour MP saw fit to make hay with a slur being pushed by the economically far-right propagandist website Guido Fawkes. About as bitter a foe of progressive politics as exists on these islands. One need be no Corbynite to doubt that regurgitating filth from this sewer is “a great way of showing how Labour can reconnect with the people of Britain”.